I’m just back from an evening dog walk. I say evening, in fact it was afternoon, but the nights draw in so early now and it is currently so misty that it might as well be evening. The air was thick with water, heavy with the scent of woodsmoke and bonfires. There was no one about and no breeze lifted the branches or rattled the crisped autumn leaves against each other. The lane was wet, the fallen leaves beginning to stew together to become mulch. The dog and I got lost in the moment, as one does when one is walking and thinking and listening to the damp drip of water running down trees and riddling through the verge to the stream. The lights at the railway crossing were bright and warm and seemed so solitary in the dusk.
This is my favourite time of year. It switches something on in my brain that makes me want to try new ventures, but also makes me want to disappear into a story or a poem. It makes me want to write. I think it’s the dark, and in the countryside it is dark, dark. It makes the whole world drop away, and leaves me unobserved, yes, I think that’s what makes me want to write more; it’s the idea of the darkness as a place where others can’t see you. It frees me to write without judgement. Last Thursday, bonfire night, I sat in my office waiting for my seven pm writing group to arrive for the course I’m teaching, which I’m teaching via zoom this semester. The trees that I could normally see through the window were gone into the night. I could see nothing of the fields and fields, the rise to the wolds. And then someone, probably in the next village along, lit a bonfire. It flickered between the unseen tree branches, a feathery amber spot in the total black. There were a couple of silent fireworks, the type I like, the ones with the big plumes of colour but no terrifying of animals. That would come later. My poor twelve year old dog was turned inside out with anxiety, his little face puckered and worried as he ran round the house protecting us and warning us about the loud bangs. No, at this point it was beautiful. I thought of the people who lived here thousands of years ago, those people who lived on the banks of the long gone glacial lake, the lake people. There is no longer a lake, of course, just a great black swathe of darkness and damp. Still, this fire in the darkness of this season, the flickering light seen from miles around, the knowledge of others out in the darkness. I had the same feeling when Biden was finally declared as president of the USA last night, in the middle of this bleak black time, something happened, a light, that helped connect us.
There were bats in the lane, sharp angled shapes against the indigo sky which darkened around us. Then we returned, in almost darkness, making our way through a bank of bonfire smoke, then up into the street lights of the village, the rectangles of warmth from the windows, the slow rise of woodsmoke, the fresh wreaths on the village war memorial.
I love this time of year.